When Ray Lewis retired this offseason, the Ravens lost their emotional leader, all-time leading tackler and a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer.
They also lost their legendary orator.
Lewis’ speeches are almost mythical. They have been highlighted in commercials, reenacted on Saturday Night Live, and been replayed million of times of YouTube. Lewis has talked to teams in a variety of sports across the globe, bringing the best out of athletes at every level.
Now that Lewis is done in Baltimore, the Ravens have to find someone else to give those iconic pre-game speeches in the middle of the field each week.
The 11-year veteran is next in line in the pecking order with Lewis and Ed Reed both gone. Suggs has been one of the team’s leaders for the last several seasons, but now is his opportunity to take the reins of the defense.
Suggs relishes the spotlight and certainly isn’t shy when a camera gets thrown in his face. He has an outgoing personality, and is constantly talking to teammates on the sidelines and on the field. Suggs is also known as a bit of a trash talker.
To some extent, Suggs has been in this position already. He already gives speeches to the defensive front before every game and took a more active role as a vocal leader last season and in 2011 when Lewis missed extended time because of injuries.
The former Defensive Player of the Year has the respect of his teammates and is ready for his chance to lead.
The sixth-year running back has been a leader of the offense for the last few seasons.
He’s now one of the veteran voices in the locker room, a respected elder with three Pro Bowls to his name. Rice is gregarious and charismatic, who keeps his teammates loose on the sidelines.
Rice will be one of the vocal leaders of the offense, and he could take center stage in the pre-game huddle if needed.
Flacco is the leader of the team. Owner Steve Bisciotti has made that point clear.
But does being the leader mean that Flacco has to be out in the forefront firing up his teammates?
That’s not really the style of the laid-back Flacco.
"I don't do what Ray [Lewis] does, but I'm the leader of the football team," he told USA today recently. "I do it in my way. There are people that do it different ways and obviously we're able to do it pretty well."
While Flacco may not plan any impassioned speeches or theatrical pre-game dances, he is an active voice on the sidelines for each game. Flacco is constantly talking with his coaches and teammates, putting his fingerprints on the evolving offensive gameplan each week.
Videos of him mic’d up during games have showcased Flacco’s personality, demonstrating that he’s not nearly as quiet or dull as some people perceive.
Another option for the Ravens is to look to the man who could ultimately take Lewis’ spot in the middle of the defense.
McClain, a six-year veteran, is expected to start at inside linebacker as long as he’s able to fully recover from a neck injury that sidelined him last season. McClain is one of the vocal leaders of the defense and has been a starter for his last three seasons.
McClain learned by playing next to Lewis, and he would made the defensive calls in recent years when Lewis was sidelined. Now he’s the veteran of the linebacker corps, and his teammates may look his way for words of wisdom.
The Pro Bowl right guard is considered one of the best overall players on the Ravens’ roster.
He’s a hard-nosed worker who prefers to stay out of the limelight, but has the respect of his teammates.
Yanda delivered an inspiring speech to the team during last training camp, where he told his teammates to “embrace the grind” of the season. That message stuck with the team all season and also led to the creation of “Embrace The Grind” t-shirts.
Yanda may not be a man of many words, but when he does step in front of the team, they listen.